Monday, June 14, 2010

What's HOT/What's NOT: The June Revival

In honor of recent nostalgia, I would like to bring back an old regular I used to do for my Myspace blog. Introducing... What's HOT/What's NOT! The title is pretty self-explanatory (a quick listing of what's hot and what's not based on news, pop culture/entertainment, and life itself), but I'm thinking that if you guys enjoy it, I'll make it a monthly regular. Comment below with your thoughts and let me know what's hot/not for you! In the meantime, sit back and let the hotness sink in.

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What's HOT
Wizards who sing and dance.

What's NOT
Vampires who shimmer and sparkle.

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What's HOT
Sitting in your car, turning on the radio, and realizing that you just rocked out to Justin Bieber.

What's NOT
Anything Miley Cyrus has to say.

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What's HOT
Going on road trips with friends.

What's NOT
Being separated from friends for months and miles.

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What's HOT
Being bulletproof.

What's NOT
Pretending that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars.

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What's HOT
The semi-recent opening of Elevation Burger, an all-organic restaurant, in my hometown.

What's NOT
Finding out what they actually put in the fast food we all know and love.

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What's HOT
Cutting costs on a college student's budget, either in stores or online.

What's NOT
The economy.

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What's HOT
The World Cup.

What's NOT
The apparent need for/lack of ear plugs during the World Cup.

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What's HOT
Going to guest lectures and seminars at school to learn about what interests us.

What's NOT
Struggling to stay awake in our 8AM summer classes!

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What's HOT
The release of the first official trailer for Twisted (the latest Disney princess movie based on Rapunzel).

What's NOT
Being the oldest non-parent in the movie theater!

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What's HOT
The self-serve frozen yogurt shoppes that have been popping up over the last year or so.

What's NOT
Taking all the free samples. Seriously, guys? :)

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Breakfast at Tiffany's: Where Do You Belong?

"I don't want to own anything until I know the place where me and things belong together. I'm not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it's like... it's like Tiffany's... What I've found does the most good is just to get in a taxi and go to Tiffany's. It calms me down right away, the quietness and proud look of it; nothing very bad could ever happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits... If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name." - Breakfast at Tiffany's (novel), by Truman Capote

With no classes for the past several weeks, I've finally had some time to crack into my personal summer reading. First on the list was Truman Capote's novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (later made iconic in film by Audrey Hepburn, which I have unfortunately yet to see), but I had no idea that the story would have such an impact on me. After all, it was written before my parents were even born, and its images originally seemed way too glamorous for me to ever relate to.

Then, of course, I opened the book.

For those of you unfamiliar with Breakfast at Tiffany's, it's all about this beautiful but eccentric girl named Holly Golightly who lives in a small apartment above the unnamed narrator who loves her. The novel details their growing friendship, and reveals the secrets of Holly's life before New York (as well as the scandals she involves herself in afterward). Throughout the story, Holly shares many of her own life philosophies, which ultimately provide a deeper insight into who she really is. One of the central conflicts in the book is Holly's search for a place to belong; as much as she loves NYC, she never really considers it home. Because of this, she can never commit to much of anything; it's the very reason why her calling cards say "Traveling" and she never named the cat that lives with her.

Holly's struggle to settle down made me think a lot about my own life and what it means to be "home." Before college, I had lived in my house in South Florida for sixteen years and never questioned my belonging there. I loved my little city and I always knew what was going on; I couldn't imagine leaving it behind, but at least I knew there would always be a place for me.

And yet, a week into my first semester of freshman year, I was already referring to my dorm room as home. In fact, "I'm almost home" now meant that I was approaching my building and scrambling for the keys, not that I was actually driving to my house. Three hours from what was once considered home, I found myself bonding with new people and no longer dependent on others. When I called my family on the phone, I no longer felt as much a part of what was happening in their lives because of the many miles of separation. And when I did return to my house for holidays and breaks, my room no longer felt quite like my room.

So what is "home" for me now? I was born in Illinois and yet I feel no connection to the Prairie State whatsoever. Meanwhile, I lived in my childhood home in Florida full-time for most of my life and it holds many memories, but nowadays, my room feels more like a museum of what my life was than a living space for me now. And I have been an Orlando resident for nearly a year now, but as much as I love the location and the friends I've made, the city separates me from some of the people I love the most. Like a chameleon, I've been able to blend in no matter where I've lived... but at the same time, sometimes I feel like a traitor to the home I've always known.

As college students, I feel like it can be difficult for us to figure out where we do belong, since we're constantly back and forth between our pasts and presents. What I want to know is this: what makes the place we live our home? Is home the place where you have the most friends, or where you spend the most time, or where your family lives, or where you have the most memories? Is it possible to consider more than one place home? How do we know when it's okay to commit to something? 

How do we know where we truly belong?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beware The Zombie Apocalypse!

If our latest pop culture has taught us anything, it's that stereotypes are meant to be broken... especially in the world of fantasy. Think of the fairy tales we were told and the horror movies we came across (usually against our mothers' wishes) when we were young and you'll know what I mean. For example, witches were always ugly, mean-spirited creatures with personal vendettas against humankind, but ever since the Harry Potter books came out, our vision of wizards and witches has changed radically. We used to fear  Nosferatu and Dracula, but ever since vampires began to sparkle in 2005, girls dream of being swept off their feet by one. The novel and musical Wicked gives a reprieve to Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, and even Cinderella's ugly stepsisters are redeemed in one novel or another. The point is, our generation loves a good villain-turned-antihero, which is why such books and movies continue to thrive, and our perceptions change over time.

Sadly, in spite of the new Generation Dead series by Daniel Waters, which focuses on teen zombies and their horrible treatment in our world, we still don't have it in us to let go of our grudge against zombies. I'll admit that in the past they were known for eating brains, but surely while everyone else is getting their side of the story told, so too should the "differently biotic" (Waters' politically correct term for zombies). And yet, our schools still host Zombies vs. Humans games and promote these stereotypes! I remember sitting outside before class one time, overhearing a group of kids my age discussing how they would protect themselves in the zombie apocalypse, and one of them actually pulled out a Zombie Survival Guide! I was appalled at the level of prejudice I observed... if people heard about the injustices that the innocent zombies face on a daily basis, maybe they would throw out those survival guides and lend a hand to the pro-zombie movement instead.

When the third book Passing Strange comes out on Tuesday, you'd better believe I'm going to buy it and become more entrenched in the protection and appreciation of the differently biotic. And while you're swooning over Edward Cullen, just think of those perfectly wonderful zombies who need your support.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I Fight With You Because I Love You

Once upon a time, there lived a man and a woman so blinded by their differences in upbringing and opinion that it took them ages to swallow their pride and admit their undying love for one another. Prior to the much-anticipated confession, their courtship consisted mostly of heated arguments, which proved not only that they were both articulate and intelligent, but that they were passionate about the topics they argued. Such a strong display of passion ultimately revealed that the man and woman, although constantly at odds, simply belonged together.


So who are our mystery man and woman? For me, the first couple that comes to mind is Elizabeth Bennett and her unexpected knight in shining armor Mr. Darcy, of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. However, the theme of sparring lovers isn't a new one. We see it in literature: in Shakespeare (Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing), the Bronte sisters (Jane and Rochester of Jane Eyre; Cathy and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights) and even J.K. Rowling (Harry's parents James and Lily; Hermione and Ron). We see it on TV and in movies too... just think of Katherine Heigl's filmography and you'll know exactly what I mean!


Anyway, I think that a lot of us are drawn to these unlikely relationships when they're done right. I know that I personally rooted for Blair and Chuck on Gossip Girl from the moment they first started scheming together (once I got over the fact that the show wasn't at all canon to the book series), and that You've Got Mail is one of my favorite movies of all time (even if I'm not even remotely a Tom Hanks fan). But don't they ever get to be a bit... cliché?


Confined to my house for the past week or so, I've had some time to really mull this over. After all, my last weekend consisted of Bridget Jones, The Ugly Truth, and The Proposal, all of which contain those adversarial love stories we enjoy so much. The movies are definitely cute -- and there is a huge market for cuteness -- but how realistic are they? Take The Ugly Truth as a prime example. All Katherine Heigl's character even does is argue with Gerard Butler's... even when unprovoked! It's just a movie, sure, but to me her character is borderline rude. She's not meant to be depicted that way, but because she disagrees with Gerard Butler's tactics for handling women, she will constantly put him down even when he's being relatively nice to her, and audiences eat it up because they love the chemistry that such butting of heads inevitably implies. Of course we know that because the characters' viewpoints are so radically different, they are bound to fall in love. It's funny, because if this worked in real life, we'd crazy not to pick fights with our enemies and then pursue them, since according to this law, they are so obviously our soulmates.

As I said before, when done right, these books/shows/movies can really tug at our heartstrings. But honestly, the fact that a story has two romantic leads who seem to hate each other's guts doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be good. It also doesn't mean we should always look to date our polar opposites, either.

In fact, it's okay for us to like our significant others once in a while. :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Everybody's Changing And I Don't Feel The Same...

"Change can be so constant you don't even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don't even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me." - Life as a House

We can't deny it: change is abundant and unavoidable and real. No matter what kind of person you are, your circumstances and experiences will have the power to shape you in some way, even to the smallest degree. And no, you might not recognize those changes right away, but those around you will eventually be able to see the person you are about to become. One day, you too will have that "aha!" moment, when you realize that you are no longer that wide-eyed child or jaded teenager, but in fact someone entirely new. Or, at the very least, that you have deviated somewhat from the person you always thought of as You.

Nelson Mandela once said that when you return to a place unchanged, you begin to see the ways that you yourself have changed. Tonight, when I met up with my friend Kevina for frozen yogurt at one of those new self-serve shops, I realized just how true that was.

The frozen yogurt place was brand new, but the plaza where it was located was not. In fact, it was a place my friends and I frequented throughout high school, one where you could find the hipsters, cheerleaders, and wannabe gangsters all coexisting quite peacefully. Anyway, as I waited outside for Kevina to find parking, I took a look around and was eerily reminded of a not-so-distant time. Gaggles of fifteen-year-old girls being dropped off at the front in their mothers' SUVs. The formerly heartthrob "bad boys" hanging around by the crosswalk, unsure of where to make their next move. The awkward young couples who are still getting used to holding hands. A few kids here and there taking a drag off their cigarettes, trying to look as though they've done it all their lives. And my favorite, the four fashionista Mean Girls who were probably in middle school, texting away on their Blackberries and flipping their hair over their shoulders.

The sights seemed all too familiar to me, but at the same time I felt like a total outsider. And in many ways, I was. I mean, technically it wasn't too long ago that I was in high school and I liked my own bad boy, or that my mother dropped me off outside the Barnes and Noble. But in the one year since I was a part of the whole high school food chain, I realize that my priorities have changed. My mindset is completely different. I'm not the same person. Okay, so I'm a nineteen-year-old girl who still cares about boys and friends and appearances, but if life away from home has taught me anything, it's that I'm more than that.

And I'm happy with who I'm becoming. : )

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An Elaborate Chase Does Not A Relationship Make

Let me just preface this entry by saying that ultimately, in relationships, we are bound to make our own rules and then break them accordingly. We will continue to hope that we too are the exception to someone else's rule (a-la He's Just Not That Into You), and sometimes we will be. In other words, some of us might actually get the picture perfect romantic movie endings we always dreamed of. Of course, there's a reason we denote those endings as "exceptional," and that's because they don't happen every day -- chances are, when someone is treating you poorly in a relationship, they are not The One and have no real place in your life.

So here's the situation: you've been dating this guy for a long time and you are convinced that he's your perfect fit. You're completely in love with him and you doubt you could ever possibly shake those feelings. However, the two of you have definitely had your fights, and people often question why you are even together (after all, you're always second-guessing yourself when you're with him). Then one day, he really messes things up... and simply talking things through isn't going to repair anything. He goes to great lengths to plead your forgiveness. What do you do now?

a) End the relationship because you know you deserve better.
b) Forgive and forget because he fought for you!
c) Put your hands on his cash and spend it to the last dime for all the hard times. (Thank you, Blu Cantrell!)

Okay, as appealing as c sounds, it's probably illegal - so that option is out. All we have left now are a (the rational, albeit often difficult, response) and b (the one we tend to lean toward). Any apology that seems remotely heartfelt tends to be easily accepted because we think we're about to lose the love of our lives. And we feel as though that person made a distinct effort to chase after us, which is very romantic in movies and television. If you don't believe me, just look at all the fan pages devoted to this on Facebook... for example, one page entitled "when a girl says i'm done, it really means fight for me" has 261,655 fans (and quickly growing... I had to change that number from 261,093 within the last few minutes or so). 

Sadly, when it comes down to it, words are just words, and apologies don't really mean anything (as beautiful as they may sound and as creatively as they may be executed) unless they lead to a definite change. For every time I gave a boy the benefit of the doubt in a situation where he did not deserve it, I was the one who was ultimately disappointed. And why? Because the concept that he was "fighting" for me allowed me to block out every negative quality and made me see this perfect companionship that didn't really exist. Every time that I was proven wrong, I continued to hold on because I thought I feared losing someone who could be perfect for me. In the end, though, I think the thing we fear the most is our own supposed inadequacy -- we don't think we deserve or will ever be able to find something better.

Ultimately, I don't want anyone to fight for me just because it's a challenge or to maintain some kind of consistency. People make mistakes, but an elaborate apology is only appropriate when you're willing to improve the situation for the long-term and prevent the same mistakes from happening again.